Lackey's season appeared to be in jeopardy in the second game. Coming off the second-most prolific rushing season in Maryland history, All-Met running back Morgan Green left the field after aggravating a hamstring injury against Chopticon, and it looked bad.

Who knew if Green's speed, strength and explosiveness that carried Lackey to last year's 3A title game would return in time for another postseason run? Would the Chargers fall apart without the University of Maryland recruit, who last season rushed for 2,630 yards -- 65 percent of their total offense?

"It really didn't faze us," senior linebacker Kyle McKeown said. "You know, we're not just a running team this year."

That hasn't been an easy label for Lackey (9-0) to shake, even though the Chargers have allowed fewer than five points per game, shut out four of their past six opponents, and held three teams to negative rushing yardage.

None of those opponents, however, were as challenging as tonight's. For the second straight season, Lackey travels to Westlake (8-1) to determine the Southern Maryland Athletic Conference champion, and, this year, the top seed in 3A South playoffs.

"Last year, I felt the world was on my shoulders," said Green, who is back at full strength despite missing the past two games. He has rushed for 1,206 yards and 22 touchdowns this season. "This year, even with my injury, I didn't feel like I had to rush myself back."

The Chargers have allowed 19 first-half points this season, and put little pressure on its offense.

"The defense has always been able to make plays," said senior linebacker Kevin Glascock, who is the Chargers' leading tackler for the third consecutive season with 79, including 14 for a loss. "This year, it's become a bigger challenge. Without Morgan, we figured we couldn't get as many points, so we knew we had to keep teams out" of the end zone.

As a result, Lackey could afford to work in an effective passing game and develop other offensive outlets. Put it all together and Lackey has gotten a second-half running clock -- by virtue of a 35-point lead -- in seven of its nine games.

"If Morgan is out, we need to do enough just to put some points on the board because, with our defense, we'll be just fine," Lackey Coach Scott Chadwick said. "We're trying hard to convince people that the identity of our team is our defense. Everybody wants it to be Morgan or our passing game, but it's our defense."

Directions: Take Beltway to Exit 2, Indian Head Highway (Route 210) south, for about 10 miles to Route 228 East. Three miles ahead, make a right onto Middletown Road; Westlake is about three miles ahead on the left. School officials are estimating a crowd as large as 7,500. Gates open at 5 p.m.

Kevin Glascock, Kyle McKeown and Bryan Gibbons, from left, lead the Chargers' defense. "You know, we're not just a running team this year," McKeown said.